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Full text of "NightRider"

212

than fifty years old, looked seventy. She was lean to emaci-
ation, and the skin hung in dry, grey folds and pouches from
her neck and jawbone. Her hands shook as with perpetual
cold. She leaned peeringly forward when she spoke in her
outworn voice. About her shoulders a black shawl was
wrapped, and on the front of her lustreless, black-silk dress
there were spots which had been left, apparently, by spilled
food.

Miss Sprague lived in her own house, but on the upper
floor. There, on the second floor, she would be. When the
slatternly little Irish maid let him in, he could see Miss
Sprague turn her head, with a careful and creaking motion,
and peer toward him.

"How are you feeling, Cousin lanthe?" he would say.

"Not much worse," she would answer, "except for the
weather." Or: " Maybe a little better, thank you, but I don't
know. Is it getting any colder, outside?"

When he first began to come to see her, he tried to lead
her into talking of his mother, and of herself. The sight of
her, at first, stirred to a kind of painful and reproachful life
those boyhood notions that had clustered about her name.
He had completely forgotten those notions. Now, the sight
of her revived them, and shocked them. He was like a man
who puts his leg down unexpectedly and feels the twinge of
an old wound, or fracture. As in a last, desperate or thrifty,
automatic effort to salvage something of his own past being
which was inherent in those notions, he tried to make her
picture for him the self she had been, that summer a long
time back, before his birth, when his mother had been a
young girl But it was no use. She could not do it. She
could not, it seemed, because she had really always been as
she was now. There was not even any pathos in her present
condition, her increasing blindness, her increasing poverty,
her Illness, her loneliness; there was none of that pathos of
the falling off from youth and beauty and vitality. Rather,
her present being was a sort of goal toward which, con-
fidently, she had always been moving, This present being